Toronto’s most Toronto band, The Sadies, talk Toronto

The country rockers returned to the family basement to record their 10th album

THE SADIES with BLUE RODEO at Massey Hall (178 Victoria), Thursday (February 2), 8 pm, all ages. $59.50-$79.50.

The Sadies’ musical history is so intertwined with Toronto’s, it’s hard to tell where one begins and the other ends.

That becomes clear within minutes of talking to the country rockers’ singer/guitarist Dallas Good in the back room of Kensington Market watering hole Ronnie’s.

Asked about the most important locals and locales in the four-piece’s 23-year history, he cites a never-ending list.

There’s the Horseshoe, where they released their first record and have performed every New Year’s Eve for 16 years. There’s Superfuzz Audio, where owner Tim Dudley once did a repair for the band at 6 pm before one of those New Year’s Eve gigs. There’s legendary promoter Dan Burke, who gave them early opportunities at Club Shanghai, the El Mo and even a trucker family convention.

There’s vintage guitar store Capsule Music, and venues like the Rivoli and the Matador, to name a few.

“Thinking about our recording experiences or our early live experiences, it was the people behind the venues and the recording studios who mean the most,” says Dallas. “Everything comes back to the community, the bands and the people in this city more than the actual concrete buildings.”

That history has a lot to do with the band’s 10th album, Northern Passages, out on Dine Alone on February 9. It was recorded with their long-time soundman, Guillermo Subauste, in Dallas’s – and fellow Sadies singer/guitarist Travis Good’s – mom and dad’s basement. The brothers jammed there with their first bands in the 80s and still use it for rehearsals with the Good Family, the group they started with their parents, Bruce and Margaret.

Margaret’s Guild acoustic guitar – the one they learned to play on – is all over the record and, according to Dallas, “is way fucking better than anything I own.” (In a separate chat, Travis agrees about the guitar’s quality, but admits that if he’d taken it when he was younger, he “would’ve totally fucked that guitar up by now.”)

Recording at home had other benefits.

“As rustic as it was in some ways, it was also way more decadent,” says Dallas, “from the catering [by their parents] to the luxury of being able to go real slow.”

Produced by Dallas, Northern Passages is a lush, engaging trip that encompasses mesmerizing psychedelia (The Elements Song), rollicking, blast-off rock ’n’ roll (There Are No Words) and healthy doses of folk and country (God Bless The Infidels). It’s the culmination of their long history blurring the lines between rock ’n’ roll and country twang, but it never sounds dated.

While Toronto has hugely shaped them, over the course of their career they’ve also worked with an astonishing number of national and international collaborators, including Andre Williams, Jon Langford, Neko Case, Blue Rodeo and Gord Downie. A bunch of them made guest appearances on their 2006 live album In Concert, Vol. 1 – the Good brothers’ favourite Toronto shows, recorded over two nights at Lee’s Palace.

Despite being internationally renowned players, all the Sadies but Travis, who lives just east of Peterborough, have always called Toronto home.

So what keeps them here?

“Here in Toronto, or here on the planet?” Dallas asks.

The former – to start.

“The fact that it’s such a great town,” he says. “There’s no other answer I can give. Maybe it’s because we’re away so much that we’re able to appreciate the city more. Maybe because we’re away so much, it gives us a chance to see how great the city is in comparison to others. But whatever that reason is, it’s been a fantastic home base for us.”

“As for how we’ve stayed on the planet?” he continues. “Probably because of the generosity of the good people of Toronto.” | @mattgeewilliams

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